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Vanity Publishing

If you receive an offer to publish your book, the first thing to consider is whether it has come from a company that you have submitted to, or has it come from an unsolicited source. Think about how or why you may have been contacted. Perhaps it is because you have been searching publishing companies on the internet and your details have come to this company’s attention.

Even if you have contacted them, consider the details of the contract that you are being offered. Often, a vanity publisher will be a disreputable outfit that offers overpriced, poorly executed, unreliable “vanity” publishing services, and these will be passed off to inexperienced writers as a traditional publishing deal.


That vanity publishers prey on writers who are not experienced in detecting the different types of publishing, is a source of great anger to me. It is not that the writers are foolish they are just not experienced enough to see through deliberately misleading descriptions to recognise a vanity publisher.

The litmus test is this; is the company asking for money? A traditional publisher should be paying the author, not the other way round. On the occasions that I hear someone has been offered a publishing deal, but the author is required to pay a fee to the company, I immediately become very suspicious.


There are other non-traditional publishing houses that openly offer “shared-cost” publishing arrangements. These are where author and publisher share the costs of production, control of the promotion, and income generated by the book on an equal basis. However, these arrangements are always disclosed up front, and these publishers do not try to pass themselves off as traditional publishing houses.


Val Penny

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Allison Symes
Allison Symes
Apr 03, 2021

Great post, Val. I was almost caught out years ago but the offer letter was so full of spelling and grammatical errors it rang alarm bells. I got things checked out with the SOA, dumped the vanity publisher, and got my MSS back. Never sorry about that.

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Allison Symes
Allison Symes
Apr 04, 2021
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Nowhere near as glad as me, Val!

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A great article, Val. I know of two new writers recently who was almost pulled into this net. Great to spread awareness.

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Val Penny
Val Penny
Apr 04, 2021
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Like you, it makes me cross, Tricia.

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Gerald Hornsby
Gerald Hornsby
Apr 03, 2021

Yes. The thing that grinds my gears is when people are happy to accept the publishing part (we offer an 'Assisted Publishing' deal), but then they are talked into high-priced marketing add-ons. I blow my top when I see phrases like "your book will be on our stand at xxxxx Book Fair, in front of hundreds of agents and publishers." Well worth the £2000 for that option... not. I've seen these stands. They're chock-full of badly-produced books that any 'proper' agent or publisher would take trouble to avoid.

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Val Penny
Val Penny
Apr 03, 2021
Replying to

I know what you mean, Gerald and it is such a shame when writers then find their books attacked or ridiculed for the poorly produced product and give up.

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